Thursday, October 4, 2012

Not Sleeping Through This

The first time I called the police, I was seven years old.  I woke up in the middle of the night to see my mother's boyfriend choking the life out of her next to my bed.  I ran across the street, beat on the neighbors' door, and asked them to summon help.

That kind of violence wasn't new to me.  In fact, it was a constant for the first half of my life to date.  But that night was the first time I'd acted to call outside help.  What do "normal" kids do when they're seven?  I wouldn't know.

I've been called a lot of things: success story, miracle, overcomer. 
Resilient child. 
Survivor.  
Cycle-breaker.

People hear my story and say things like, "Wow, you're more normal than you ought to be!"  And it's true.  Physical and psychological abuse, drug abuse, and dysfunctionality take tolls on people, so for me to have come through my first 16 years a (mostly) functional person is no small feat.  Some people don't fare so well.  

But I didn't escape unscathed, and the older I get, the more I can't ignore that fact.

In college, my friends used to talk about me "sleeping through October."  Greg asked me the other day if that was really a thing I did, and he was surprised to hear that it was.  I always started the term strong, excited, and then the weather would change, October would blow in, and I would shut down.  I skipped classes, missed work, refused to study.  

Back then, I reasoned that so many bad things had happened to me in Octobers past, I just subconsciously protected myself this way.  Now I see it differently.

There were times, before we had our kids, that I "slept through" weeks and months like they were one long October to avoid.  Especially while I was teaching, I rode a horrible roller coaster through mountains and valleys of depression, fear, and doubt, about myself, God, everything.

Since Sophie was born, I have been less able to "sleep through" anything.  Children demand your attention, your energy, your heart.  Being present for them has lessened the severity of my emotional cycle, but it hasn't leveled it out completely.

You know that saying about the swan looking all graceful and grand above the water, but underneath the surface, her feet are paddling like mad things?  That's what my mental state is like.  Because I am strong, because I have learned to cope with horrible realities, I can usually appear to have myself together, to be functioning, to be "normal," but underneath, that is often not the case.

And that is why I'm writing these posts.  I'm trying to be honest.  I'm trying to be real.  Falling into depression, for me, feels like falling into a pit.  I can actually feel myself falling, sinking, being swallowed.  And lately, I have been falling, watching the leaves outside fall and knowing I'd follow them soon.

But I don't want to fall too far, to get to the "sleep through" part, the part where I shut down and curl in on myself.  And so I'm sending out these words as anchor lines, tethering me to reality, to friends, to Life.  

I'd like to write something here about how John uses the Word, Light, and Life, but I don't want to muss it up.  Grace, Jesus, for all of us who need your Light.

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